I’ve joked, as uncouth as it surely is, with a few fellow expats since I’ve gotten here about us all having the disposition of a Romanian orphan; absolutely terrified of abandonment.
Up until recently, I had dismissed the theory that as an adopted child I may have some deeply seeded, uncontrollable and incurable fear of abandonment. I thought it a massive load of bullshit that some doctor had decided to propose in the hopes it would create for him a fortune and that adoptive parents would submit to this theory because their children happened to have “issues”. Issues that the parents, after entering adulthood, forgot are entirely normal and that they probably had the same ones themselves.
Adopted or not, detachment from someone or something is rarely a pleasant one as I’ve concluded firsthand and also after month long discussions with people on the subject. My first week in Phnom Penh I spoke with my current employer about her social circle and who she has found herself closest to. She fairly bluntly responded that in this city, you’re simply better off not connecting with anyone on a deep level as a temporary expat, because eventually: they will leave. Crushing, to say the least, as I looked back on leaving almost every person crucial to my social fulfillment back in Washington only 48 hours prior. Buddha’s teachings that attachment is the root of all suffering came to mind and that was only slightly devastating. As much as I enjoy solitude and that withdrawal is something that comes naturally to me, I still find myself latching onto things with similarly to that of a marmoset to a ripe banana.
This whole notion of unhealthy attachment or lack thereof has stuck with me as I come in contact with each and every individual that I find myself attracted to in any way. I am, unfortunately at times, a daydreamer and a daydreamer of the worst breed. I sometimes take on the stereotypical role of a moony eyed young girl connecting a man’s last name to her own first in the first ten minutes of meeting, imagining the white picket fence (or The Broil King Sovereign grill, because that’s actually way more important) and the names of our four children (Scout, MIlo, Evelyn, and Dean) or envisioning the places my cohorts and I will explore while in Israel or Tanzania or Spain. I also hold the mind altering psyche that plans so far into the future that it makes it almost impossible to focus on and enjoy the present. The present which is gorgeous and infuriating and terrifying and by all means perfect, because it’s the present. It’s like I break for myself every promise of something good for absolutely no reason.
I’ve made a few wonderful friends in Phnom Penh that I have quickly gained comfort with, but I must continually shake off the imminent fact that they will eventually leave. That I will eventually leave. That it’s not personal, that we will inevitably grow apart,. Whether that means we distance ourselves to New York, Australia, Vancouver or Boston, we are bound to part ways. The part that I struggle with is that these losses, these painful subtractions, are healthy, good and entirely necessary. It’s also ridiculous how my best friend from the second grade (I’m talking to you Allison Kuester) who I haven’t seen in ten years will be moving four hours away from me in Southeast Asia and that her work will bring her straight to my doorstep every three months. Oh, those curveballs.
Birds leave their nests, cubs from their dens, because it’s part of their natural world. We grow, we expand. If I were to be enveloped in the company of every person I have loved, we would smother each other to death, more likely literally than figuratively. If I try and get down to the basics of our evolutionary cores, I realize that the importance of leaving ones you care about and vice versa is a crucial step to a life well lived. I now envision myself scribbling on a window with a whiteboard pen talking to my seventeen cats, and I’m sometimes glad no one actually really reads these entries.
As the time after leaving every man in a relationship I’ve been with hurt, as the time my father died and it felt like God had a sick sense of humor, as the heartbreaking months my soulmate of a friend and I were forced out of speaking terms because of my own dumb actions, I now know they were all crucial. They were what created this broken, strong, terrified, confident paradoxical person I am in this moment.
If I have to spend a few days and nights of longing, sadness and regret to continue on to these places of growth, then I volunteer.
As if I have a choice.
There will be someone, other than the revolutionary Brooke Miller or my unrivaled mother or sisters or my nephew Luke, that I spend my life with and the only thing that will force our departure from one another is death. I can handle that. I can absorb every good thing, every terrible thing, that comes to me between now and then with acceptance, even a smirky knowledge that things will continue to end, and there is the absolute possibility that they may end well.
*post note: There was an exorbitant amount of wine involved when writing this entry. Sorry I’m not sorry.
Good post, Anna. Fear of abandonment, we are all bound to face at one time or another in our lives. Unfortunately, some of us experience abandonment pretty early on. Love you, kiddo! You are eloquent! Keep up the good work.